How to Direct Music With Your Hands

Directing music with your hands is a technique called conducting. A conductor will use his hands to show where the beat is in a piece of music. His hands or tip of the baton, a stick used to conduct, will show the beat by pointing to specific directions in space. The performers know how to interpret these movements, which makes it possible for an entire orchestra to play in tempo. Without conducting, it wouldn't be possible for a large ensemble to play in time, as listening to other performers is not always accurate. It is much more efficient to watch a single conductor in the front-center of the ensemble.

Step 1:  Hold both hands out in front of you; whether you use a baton is your choice. Conduct a preparatory beat, or anacrusis, regardless of the type of pattern, by bringing both hands up and in an arch toward each other to indicate the tempo. Your hands or baton should hit the highest point, approximately in the middle of your head.

Step 2:  Conduct a four pattern where the first beat is the strongest and the third beat is the second strongest by continuing the pattern from Step 1 by moving straight down to a point approximately in the middle of your chest. Both hands then bounce approximately half way up and to the center of your chest for the second beat, followed by a horizontal motion that extends out from your bottom for the third beat, and then moving upward to the original high point for the fourth beat. The conducting pattern forms an upside down cross with your hands.

Step 3:  Conduct a three pattern by moving downward from the anacrusis, then out away from the body for the second beat and up to the original starting point for the third beat. A three pattern consists of one strong beat, followed by two weak beats. This pattern mimics the shape of a triangle.

Step 4:  Conduct music in two by making a reversed "J" conducting pattern. After the anacrusis, the point of the letter indicates the first beat. Move from the top of the "J" to the other end by moving away from the body and then follow the letter back to the point. The second beat is indicated by the lowest point of the curved part of the "J" figure. When a beat is struck, you should include a slight bounce to indicate the beat.

Step 5:  Conduct a six pattern by using a modified upside down cross pattern. Most six patterns are so fast that a two pattern is used and each beat is subdivided into three. However, when a six pattern is slow enough, you can indicate each beat by moving straight down for the first beat, indicate two more beats along a line by moving toward the center of the body, then swing to the other side of the imaginary downbeat line and conduct three more beats before returning to the initial downbeat.

The speed of your hands will determine the tempo. You should complete the preparatory upward beat, also called the anacrusis, in the time it will take one beat. The width and height of the conducting pattern indicates the volume. To indicate an increase in volume, or crescendo, you can start with a small pattern and increase to a large pattern.

Alternatively, you can hold one hand out and slowly raise it upward while conducting the beat with the other hand. Decrescendos, or diminishing volume, move in the opposite direction. A slight bounce at the start of each beat will make it clear where the beat falls.


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